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"Fighting on the Equator. War Violence and Colonial Experiences among Congolese Troops during World War I"

Abstract : The Centennial of the First World War provides many new insights on the materiality of the war experience. Although most of the commemorations focus on European battlefields, there is a need to take the opportunity to document war violence in Africa, especially on the front where the Force Publique-troops were engaged. Beyond the great figures of the military commandment, this contribution links it to the re-appraisal of imperial history in dialogue with recent exhibitions dedicated to black soldiers of the Force Publique. Due to documentation constraints, it attempts to offer a fresh analysis of military history, tracing African presence. It takes a look at the war experiences of European and Congolese soldiers of the Force Publique in order to understand why this colonial army was still regarded as very violent on the battlefields by the enemy and local populations of the Great Lakes. Inspired by historiographical perspectives of World War I in Europe, it focuses on modern weapons, wounds, civil populations, cases of rapes and massacres, cultural representations of the enemy and internal dynamics of combat units. It argues that World War I campaigns in Africa were pursuing efforts of colonial pacification inside and outside Congo, and that they resembled colonial warfare with the spreading of small flying columns of African soldiers led by European officers and non-commissioned officers.
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Submitted on : Monday, June 27, 2022 - 11:15:19 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, June 28, 2022 - 3:54:55 AM

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Lancelot Arzel. "Fighting on the Equator. War Violence and Colonial Experiences among Congolese Troops during World War I". Revue Belge d'Histoire Contemporaine, 2018, XLVIII (1-2), pp.56 - 75. ⟨hal-03705634⟩

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